Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp)
After taking eighth in 2011, the 34-year-old hopes for better this year as the team's co-leader. More of a pure climber than a rouleur, Danielson might not appreciate the course's moderate profile and more than 100km of time trialing. Last year he only got stronger as the race progressed; look for him to shine in the Pyrenees during the Tour's final week.
Chris Horner (Radioshack-Nissan)
Nearly 41, Horner is one of the most experienced riders in the peloton. He's also among the best Americans of the past five years. After first being left off his team's list for the Tour de France, he was a surprise last-minute addition following the announcement of Andy Schleck's non-participation. On paper, Horner will support Frank Schleck, but he's also ready to step up should Schleck prove unable to lead in July.
Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team)
It's easy to forget this is just Van Garderen's third pro season. After all, the 23-year-old's rsum reads like that of a far more seasoned rider, with top-5 finishes at the Tour of California, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Critrium du Dauphin, and Paris-Nice. This year, he'll likely help Cadel Evans defend his title, while gaining valuable experience for a future assault of his own.
Despite scoring a few early season wins, the 38-year-old veteran has been waylaid this year by bad luck and crashes. A third-place finish in the Tour of Switzerland indicates he's returned to form in time to make up for a disappointing 2011 Tour. His team enters the race without Tom Boonen as its sprinter, meaning Levi will share team captaincy with the squad's other general classification candidate, Tony Martin.
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp)
Vande Velde has two top-10 Tour de France finishes on his rsum-and both came in years in which he started the Tour of Italy. He rode the Tour of Italy this year too, riding in support of Ryder Hesjedal (who became the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour). This year's Tour de France route suits Vande Velde as fewer mountains and more time trialing give him a chance for another high finish.
Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Sharp)
Zabriskie burst onto the scene when he won the prologue of the 2005 Tour de France. With time trial wins in the Tour of California and the U.S. national championship, don't be surprised if DZ upsets Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin to take the Tour's first yellow jersey in Liege next Saturday.
George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team)
When he rolls down the starting ramp in Liege on July 30th, George Hincapie will begin the record-breaking 17th Tour de France of his career. If Cadel Evans can successfully defend his 2011 Tour title, Hincapie-who turns 39 the day before the Tour begins-will have helped riders win the Tour a whopping 10 times.
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp)
After a terrific 2011 season in which he won his first Tour de France stage, Farrar has stumbled in 2012. After focusing on the spring Classics, he seems a step or two behind the sport's fastest field sprinters. But despite being winless so far this year, the American will once again be the focus of Garmin-Sharp's first week at this year's Tour. A win will go a long way toward restoring Farrar's confidence before the Olympics in London.